I used to live in Sedona, Arizona, initially being drawn to the natural beauty of the red rocks in the surrounding national forest and the countless scenic and breathtaking hiking trails. But Sedona, surprisingly, is also an American hotspot for all things metaphysical – it's become a huge tourist attraction due to its purported life-enhancing energy vortices, spiritual speakers, alternative healers, and new age shops. It's a small town with a population of approximately 11,000 but sees more than 3 million visitors per year.
There are spiritual retreats of all kinds, luxurious spas, energy vortex jeep tours, and plenty of extravagant shops and art galleries available in and around Sedona. In some of the new age shops, a person can easily become overwhelmed by the prolific assortment and number of crystals and gemstones, some inset in jewelry of all kinds. There are also metaphysical and personal development books, music, incense, candles, wind chimes, angels, tarot cards, and statues of Buddha and Kuan Yin for sale. You can get a psychic, astrological, or tarot reading, or a photograph of your aura and chakras.
With so much spirituality for sale, and so many people clamoring for it, it's apparent many are hungry for deeper meaning in an unpredictable world with random turmoil and chaos. Turning to a new kind of spirituality that promises the possibility of mystical experiences and connection with cosmic healing forces gives hope and inspiration to one's uncertain path. This new spirituality appeals to many by offering the lure of enlightenment in the form of transformative energies and higher vibrations that come from crystals, images of gurus and gods, angel figurines, and powerful geomagnetic sites. Mysticism in these forms can be effectively used as tools for the mind to bring about enhanced spiritual states; for instance, using incense or meditating on an angelic icon helps with one's focus on their connection with spirit.
As part of one's collective passage to self-realization, though, there cannot be the level of "enlightenment" attained without the one factor that ultimately defines us and propels us along our soul's journey: our interactions with others. Each experience we have with other living beings adds to our psychospiritual makeup, which determines the evolution of our whole self.
Even if one does gain enlightenment through a spiritual awakening like mine, which allows for merging one's consciousness with Higher Self, this awakening will lead to the same conclusion that our worldly interactions are our primary driving force determining humanity's progression and subsequent transformation.
How, then, can we consciously control the outcome of our spiritual growth through our interactions with others? All beneficial interactions have the common element of respect: respect toward each other, and even living creatures and plant life.
Re·spect (noun): esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability; (verb): to show regard or consideration for
Respect allows others, within our established laws and mutual codes of ethics, to follow their own unique individual path to greatest fulfillment or purpose without manipulation of will, domination, force, hostility, denigration, selfishness, or harm.
For those acting against our established laws and codes of ethics, we pursue due process and resolution through our established systems and passionately persevere in improving those channels when they appear to fail us. At the same time, we humbly acknowledge and bless the gift every person and living thing adds to our existence – even that despicable criminal, politician, family member, or boss who is helping the rest of humanity decide who we don't want to be and offers us opportunities to improve the lives of those who suffer because of their hurtful decisions or actions.
When we find we have to deal one on one with those who cross the line by abusing others or challenge our patience and sense of self-worth, this doesn't mean we need to lower ourselves to their level in order to stop or mitigate their behavior; rather, there are smarter, more compassionate ways to handle them and not play their game, and by so doing we become disentangled from their machinations and course through life.
The practice of respect, then, can serve as one of our greatest opportunities for rapid progress along our earthly journeys.